Workers at LA, Long Beach ports now need special ID cards

Workers at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles starting today must show a high-tech ID card at terminal gates to get to their jobs. KPCC’s Molly Peterson says harbor officials are hoping they’re ready.

Molly Peterson: To obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Card – known around the harbor as a TWIC card – a port worker needs a federal background check, $132, paperwork, and several weeks.

Technological glitches and a recent backlog slowed TWIC cards to several thousand workers. Federal Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano said security officials would make some allowances for the next 30 days.

Janet Napolitano: For those who’ve already had a vetting but they don’t yet have their card done, but if they have an e-mail confirmation that their’s is in process they’ll be able to use that as a substitute for the actual card.

Peterson: The ports of L.A. and Long Beach have kept enrollment offices open longer hours, and they’ve opened new centers in recent weeks. The slow economy could help the program start smoothly – less cargo coming in means less work, and fewer workers.